Sunday 23 September 2007 — This is close to 16 years old. Be careful.
Star Simpson wore a lighted circuit board to Logan airport, carried Play-Doh, and didn’t answer questions about them. As a result, police arrested her at machine-gun-point, and she is out on $750 bail. She is charged with possession of a hoax device.
As it happens, I’ve met Star Simpson. She was one of the hosts at an Instructables event at MIT in March. Here she is in her natural habitat, the MIT Electronics Research Society:
She seemed intelligent and happy and naive, a description not contradicted by any of the news reports of the event at Logan. And she’s definitely a geek. To many people, the room in the photo would be a dangerous and sinister place. To Simpson and her friends, it is a garden of creativity.
This is not a case of someone trying to perpetrate a hoax. This is a geek out of touch with the way the rest of society perceives her and her handiwork. An MIT student with a circuit board attached to her clothing and a fidgeting toy in her hand? Hardly out of the ordinary. The most unusual thing in that sentence is “her”. But showing up like that at Logan, and then acting spacey when questioned about it is just dumb.
Of course that doesn’t keep some people from judging her differently. Lots of people seem willing to call her circuit board a “fake bomb” or a hoax. Apparently being mistaken isn’t an option. If someone thinks you’re carrying a bomb, but it turns out not to be a bomb, then it’s a hoax.
To me, this is less a story about terrorism than it is about spectrum kids (nerds, Aspergers, Autism, etc) not understanding how they don’t fit in.
Everything I know about this leads me to believe that Star was not trying to scare anyone. Let’s hope it all ends equitably.
I'm an old MIT alumnus, Course 7, from the late 70s on loooong hiatus.
Where, in any mainstream news report, was:
1] The LED pattern was in the shape of a "Star";
2] The MIT Career Fair was going on Thursday;
3] The Play-Doh/plasticine was a "fidget" give-away at a Career Fair booth;
4] Star had to rush to meet her boyfriend first thing in the morning at the airport;
5] People in a rush in the cool morning grab their jackets on the run;
6] People who are late for meeting up with someone at a public terminal tend to be anxious and distracted;
7] When people are distracted, they do not always answer immediately;
8] When late meeting someone at a public terminal -- as one has explained/implied when informed by station personnel that such and such plane's passengers have already deplaned -- it's normal behavior to wander around to look for that person, including outside;
9] People, in a distracted mood, who find a souvenir ball of "stress-relief" plasticine in their hoodie pocket are wont to play with it [for which it was designed] and artistic persons might make a rose from it as a gift for a friend;
10] When someone tells you something is art [and then leaves], the conclusion that it's not art but a bomb is not generally warranted even at an airport.
I spoke to a woman Thursday who called from Cambridge whose main objection is that a 19-year-old had no business dating a 42-year-old man.
This is all about sheep not liking goats.
Or as the late science-writer G. Harry Stine once said to me in correspondence: "The Brown Monkeys will always try to throw stones at the Pink Monkey."
"So, if you are a terrorist, apparently you can walk into Logan if your bomb is in a nice plastic box. Thats your security."
A serious note -
I have a friend with a colostomy, so he has a bag taped to his
abdomen. He also has an insulin pump on his body which operates electronically. His equipment looks far more menacing
than Star Simpsons.
I remember when there was no security. You could actually
walk up to the planes and meet your relatives. I actually
remember helping my grandma and grandpa into their seats
and then getting back off the plane.
Now we have $1,000,000 high tech scanners that can't
tell bottled water from a bomb and swabs and we need to take off our shoes and our coats and submit to random searches.
Intercoms blare that we should report any suspicious activity
and warn us to be vigilant. and police arrest a college sophmore for wearing a home made blinking nametag
Are we really statistically safer now? Has anyone ever caught
a bomb before it got on the plane?
Actually, she did answer questions, the crackpot who phoned in the complaint chose not to hear the answer, and as you can see in the stills in the blog post I've linked to, no playdough was to be found. She was carrying painted ceramic flowers that in no way resembled putty.
The lesson of this incident is that in today's America, reality is considered to be beside the point, and defamation and perjury perfectly acceptable. This is no longer a country worth being proud of.
Add a comment: